Casares in 1953
|Date of birth:||July 4, 1931|
|Place of birth:||Tampa, Florida|
|Date of death:||September 13, 2013(aged 82)|
|Place of death:||Tampa, Florida|
|Height:||6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)|
|Weight:||226 lb (103 kg)|
|High school:||Tampa (FL) Jefferson|
|NFL draft:||1954 / Round: 2 / Pick: 18|
|Career highlights and awards|
|Career NFL statistics|
|Player stats at PFR|
Richard Jose Casares (July 4, 1931 – September 13, 2013) was an American college and professional football player who was a fullback in the National Football League (NFL) and American Football League (AFL) for twelve seasons during the 1950 and 1960s. Casares played college football for the University of Florida, where he was standout fullback and kicker. Casares played professionally for the Chicago Bears and Washington Redskins of the NFL, and was a member of the expansion Miami Dolphins of the AFL.
Rick Casares was born in Tampa, Florida in 1931. When he was 7 years old, his father was killed in a gang shooting; his mother sent him to live with an aunt and uncle in Paterson, New Jersey. At 15, Casares became a Golden Gloves boxing champion in the 160-pound division. When he was offered a professional boxing contract, his mother refused to permit it, and he returned to Tampa.
From the age of 15, Casares lived in West Tampa with his mother, and he attended Thomas Jefferson High School in Tampa, where his teachers introduced him to high school sports as a way to keep him in school. The Jefferson coaches discovered the 190-pound, six-foot-one-inch freshman when he picked up a javelin for the first time and threw it. Casares played high school football, basketball, and baseball for the Jefferson Dragons, and he was also a track and field athlete. He was an all-state football and basketball player, and the Dragons won the city football championship in 1948 and 1949.
The Tampa Tribune recognized Casares as one the Tampa Bay area's 100 greatest athletes of the previous century in 1999. In 2007, fifty-seven years after he graduated from high school, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) recognized him as one of the thirty-three all-time greatest Florida high school football players of the last 100 years by naming him to its "All-Century Team."
After graduating from high school, Casares received an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, where he played fullback for coach Bob Woodruff's Florida Gators football team from 1951 to 1953. Casares quickly became the star rusher of the Gators' backfield. As a 210-pound, six-foot-two-inch sophomore in 1952, he scored the first touchdown of the Gators' first bowl game, a 14–13 victory over the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in the January 1, 1953 Gator Bowl, and was a second-team All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) selection and an honorable mention All-American. In 1953, he was a team captain. Woodruff ranked Casares as the Gators' best back and one of their three best kickers of the 1950s.
Casares was also a member of coach John Mauer's Florida Gators basketball team, and led the team in scoring and rebounding with 14.9 points and 11.3 rebounds as a sophomore in 1951–52, and 15.5 points and 11.5 rebounds as a junior in 1952–53. In basketball, he was a third-team All-SEC selection in 1952; as basketball team captain in 1953, he received second-team All-SEC honors.
Casares' college career was cut short when he was drafted into the U.S. Army after his junior year. He was later inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame as a "Gator Great." As part of an article series for The Gainesville Sun in 2006, he was recognized as No. 37 among the top 100 players of the first 100 years of Florida Gators football.
Casares was selected in the second round (eighteenth pick overall) of the 1954 NFL Draft by the Chicago Bears, but was offered a $20,000 annual contract with Canadian Football League's Toronto Argonauts. Instead, he accepted owner George Halas's $10,000 offer to become a member of the Chicago Bears, and after fulfilling his military service obligations, he played for the Bears from 1955 to 1964. In the fourth game of the 1955 season, in his first play as the Bears' ball carrier, he ran for 81 yards and touchdown. He finished his rookie season with 672 yards in eight games, and earned a spot in the Pro Bowl.
Casares led Chicago in rushing from 1955 through 1960. In 1956, Casares led the NFL in rushing with 235 carries for 1,126 yards. At the time, this was the second most yards gained in a single season in the NFL, short of the NFL single-season record by only 20 yards. Behind Casares' hard-nosed rushing, the Bears advanced to the 1956 NFL Championship Game. However, the Bears' championship game opponents, the New York Giants, completely stifled Casares and crushed the Bears, 47–7. He would, however, win an NFL Championship as a member of the 1963 squad.
During the following 1957 season, Casares again led the NFL with 204 rushing attempts, but his 700 yards was later eclipsed by Jim Brown's 942 yards on two fewer carries. After ten seasons with Chicago, Casares was the Bears' all-time leading rusher with 1,386 carries, 5,657 yards, and forty-nine rushing touchdowns. His Chicago Bears career rushing records weren't broken until Walter Payton shattered them in the 1970s and 1980s, and he remains the fourth all-time rusher in franchise history, behind Payton (16,726 yards), Neal Anderson (6,166 yards), and Matt Forte (5,702 yards), and ahead of Gale Sayers (4,956 yards).
Life after football
Casares retired to his hometown of Tampa, Florida following his professional football career and some business projects in Chicago. His last career venture was in the residential home improvement field, specializing in room additions. He died on September 13, 2013 after a string of illnesses, including heart disease and shoulder problems stemming from his days in football. As a U.S. Army veteran, Casares was buried in the Sarasota National Cemetery.
- Florida Gators football, 1950–59
- History of the Chicago Bears
- List of American Football League players
- List of Chicago Bears players
- List of Florida Gators football players in the NFL
- List of Miami Dolphins players
- List of Washington Redskins players
- Pro-Football-Reference.com, Players, Rick Casares. Retrieved July 1, 2010.
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- Pro-Football-Reference.com, 1957 NFL Leaders and Leaderboards. Retrieved April 28, 2011.
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- Joey Johnston, "Former Jefferson High, NFL star Rick Casares dies," The Tampa Tribune (September 14, 2013). Retrieved June 29, 2014.
- William Yardley, "Rick Casares, 82, a Bear Who Got Yards With Grit, Dies," The New York Times (September 17, 2013). Retrieved June 29, 2014.
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